The day before Marine Corps recruit Raheel Siddiqui’s death, members of his platoon were learning how to throw punches — and being ordered to abuse one another.
Platoon 3042 of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion received Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instruction on March 17 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, according to a heavily redacted copy of the investigation into Siddiqui’s death obtained by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette through open records requests.
That day two individuals — recruits, it appears, one of whom was almost 40 pounds heavier — were paired together for a punching drill.
“The drill instructors told (a recruit, presumably — all names and ranks are blacked out) not to listen for the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor’s commands,” the document reads, “but instead ‘just to keep punching.’”
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The “tan belt” portion of the martial arts course — the Corps calls it “MCMAP” — is a boot camp graduation requirement designed to improve recruits’ “self-confidence and survivability in close combat situations,” depot spokesperson Capt. Greg Carroll wrote Friday afternoon in an email to the newspapers.
The “majority” of drills don’t require a partner, he said. And when pairing is required, “recruits are instructed to partner with another recruit of similar size as best as possible.”
Recruits are weighed 48 hours before “events such as pugil sticks or body sparring,” Carroll said. Their weights are written on their hands. Recruits weighing more than 165 pounds will fight within 15 pounds of another recruit. Recruits under 165 pounds will fight within 10 pounds of each other.
According to the investigation, recruits of Platoon 3042 believed their drill instructors used MCMAP “as an opportunity to pair small unit leaders or stronger recruits against the weaker or poorly performing recruits in order to punish them.”
On that day, “(One recruit) weighed about 227 pounds,” according to the investigation. “(The other) weighed about 188 pounds.”
One recruit was required to punch another “excessively during the exercise, driving him backwards, knocking him to the ground” and bloodying his nose.
The “abuse caused (one recruit) to cry” during the drill, “as he had promised (the other recruit) that he would help him to get through training,” the investigation said.
One of those recruits was later paired with an even lighter partner who weighed 146 pounds.
Drill instructors supervise MCMAP training along with officers and martial arts instructors, according to Carroll. The martial arts instructors “have completed a formal Marine Corps course earning an additional military occupational specialty prior to teaching or instructing MCMAP to Marines or recruits,” he said.
During body sparring and pugil sticks events, recruits wear mouthpieces, groin protection, hockey gloves and various body, head and neck protection, Carroll said.
The portion of the investigation regarding MCMAP — found under the “Training Environment” section — alleges drill instructors ordered recruits to perform drills “different” from those ordered by martial arts instructors.
It details several recruit injuries, including one recruit who was dropped on the seventh day of training “due to a 5th and 6th fractured rib [sic] sustained from Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training.”
And it states that one recruit was ordered by drill instructors on March 21 to keep hitting a recruit who was “‘out of the fight’” during a pugil sticks event.
It is not clear if Siddiqui, who jumped to his death from the third floor of his barracks March 18, was part of the punching drills the day before.
When asked if Siddiqui was present, Headquarters Marine Corps Spokesperson Maj. Clark Carpenter declined to comment as the Corps’ judicial division is still assessing the investigation before recommending any charges to Training and Education Command.
Siddiqui, 20, an American Muslim of Pakistani descent from Taylor, Mich., died from injuries sustained from the nearly 40-foot fall at the depot. He told drill instructors on March 13 he wanted to kill himself.
During his time at the depot he was allegedly hazed and called a “terrorist.” The investigation of his death — and other investigations that have been linked to it — have revealed a culture of hazing and recruit abuse on Parris Island.
The Corps says his death was a suicide. His parents dispute that claim.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service continues to look into the matter.